And we are back! The Big East opens the season with your usual jokes, and a few potential statement games. Must-wins for seven teams, and a potential conference attention-grabber for South Florida at Notre Dame. A perfect week for the Big East is not out of the question.
Last Week: 0-0
Bye Week: None
Murray State at Louisville: After a solid season that ended in a bowl win, the Cardinals come in with a chip on their shoulder…still. The media won't believe that Louisville is back, but Charlie Strong and company are out to prove many wrong. They start the year against a very poor FCS team, which was blasted in its one game against an FBS opponent in 2010. Look for the Cards to try to get big time QB recruit, Teddy Bridgewater comfortable early on. There's a lot of pressure surrounding this kid, so building up the confidence early will be key. The Cardinals' defense has some new faces to break in as well, especially the secondary. Look for Victor Anderson to have a solid start to the campaign as Louisville rolls.
Prediction: 34-10 Louisville
Fordham at Connecticut: It hasn't been the best 2011 for the Huskies. It started with an embarrassing BCS appearance. Then Randy Edsell bounced. If that wasn't bad enough, UConn decided to hire Paul Pasqualoni. A few transfers here, and a couple ineligibles there and we have finally reached the season. The Huskies are ready to prove they will be competitive Fordham is most know for their Law School so don't expect much of a fight. UConn should easily roll, and try to get new starters at QB, RB, and WR comfortable before the schedule truly begins.
Prediction: 31-7 Connecticut
North Carolina Central at Rutgers: Greg Schiano just wants to put 2010 behind. He finally gets the chance this week, as the Knights host some team I've never heard of. The maturation of Chas Dodd is extremely important at the beginning of the season if Rutgers wants to compete. The receivers are solid, the rushing attack should be pretty good, but will Dodd keep up? The Knights will also have to get better on the lines, but shouldn't be tested by NCC. Rutgers rolls.
Prediction: 42-14 Rutgers
Austin Peay at Cincinnati: "Let's Go Peay! Let's Go Peay!" That is the best cheer in college sports. Sadly, they are not even the 150th best football team. Zach Collaros and the Bearcats will have a nice warmup to get ready for the rest of the season. The senior signal-caller will look to get off on the right track in the race for conference player of the year. This game will also show-off Isaiah Pead. Look for total ball control from Cincy as they housel the Peay-boys.
Prediction: 38-13 Cincinnati
Buffalo at Pittsburgh: The Panthers are out to show the world that they should be the conference favorite. Todd Graham's new offense should make the Panthers much more efficient if Tino Suneri is up to the task. The QB had a satisfactory first year as a starter, but that's not good enough. Sunseri won't have the experience at receiver like he had last season, so accuracy is a must. Look for Ray Graham to pick up where he left off on the ground last season. The Panther rusher had a breakout 2010, and is looking to do more this season…if he can hold onto the ball. Buffalo comes in with a former Big East QB at the helm with Grad-transfer, Chazz Anderson. The Bisons are coming off a dismal year, and won't enjoy the start of 2011. The Panther defense will hammer Anderson, and Graham should have a field day.
Prediction: 40-3 Pittsburgh
Wake Forest at Syracuse: Doug Marrone and the Orange probably can't wait any longer for Thursday night. With numerous injuries and arrests, training camp has been rather interesting in Central New York. The Orange open with a down ACC team in Wake Forest…a must-win game for Cuse and the conference. Ryan Nassib looks to build on a pretty solid 2010 campaign. The gunslinger will have plenty of targets to choose from even though Marcus Sales is too busy selling rock. Look for the Orange to use Antwon Bailey frequently to establish the ground attack. Wake is changing defensive philosophies so Syracuse will have an opportunity to take advantage of the growing pains. The Orange defense should also be up to the task, even if the offense is slow to get going. The Deacons starting QB, Tanner Price does return from last season, but did lose some of his most important receivers. The Orange have struggled against the ACC recently, but there is no reason they should lose to a floundering Wake Forest team. Plus, it's a home game for the Cuse. Could be a close game early, but too much from both sides from the Orange will lock it down in the second half.
Prediction: 27-17 Syracuse
Marshall at West Virginia: The debut of Dana Holgorsen is an interesting one as West Virginia hosts fake rival, Marshall. The Herd had the Mountaineers dead to rights last season before Geno Smith's heroics saved WVU. Now, Doc Holliday will have to keep his players in check. If the Herd show too much emotion early, they will be boat raced right back to Huntington. Smith and the offense will have the spotlight squarely on them, as the offense takes its first run under Holgs. Defensively, there are some questions as well. Can sack specialist, Bruce Irvin play every down? Will the linebacking unit be deep enough? However, the biggest question in this game will be is Marshall good enough to be a true test for the Mountaineers? Sure, it's the Herd's biggest game, but the talent difference is not even close. The full preview will be coming tomorrow.
Prediction: 35-14 West Virginia
Game of the Week: South Florirda at Notre Dame: A Holtz is finally back in South Bend. However, this time it's on the visiting side. Skip Holtz brings his Bulls up, and is looking to give the Big East some serious respect early on. B.J. Daniels will have to bring it early. The Notre Dame defense, while improving, will still be susceptible to a versatile QB. But, which Daniels will show up? If it's not the consistent one, then it's going to be a long day for USF. The Bulls have to be able to establish balance if they want to beat the Irish. Meanwhile, the linebacking unit will have to pace the USF defense. Brian Kelly will have Dayne Crist throwing all over the field, so look for the Bulls to mix blitzes. The Irish rushing attack may be the key factor in this game. If the passing game opens up just a little bit for Notre Dame, they'll control the majority of the game. The Bulls can't afford to get down by more than one score. Daniels and company are just not built for the major comeback. Look for Notre Dame to take an early lead, and control the majority of play.
Prediction: 28-20 Notre Dame